Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pining For the Holidays: Learn How to Bring Amazing Health Benefits to You and Your Family This Winter Season.

Pine oil has so many health benefits it’s like having a doctor in a bottle! Dermatologists have used it to treat many skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, athlete’s foot, cuts and more. Its antiseptic properties lend itself for household cleanser (Pinesol) and natural deodorizer. Massage therapists use it to relieve aching muscles and arthritis due to its pain relieving properties. Years ago when TB was rampant and there was not cure, doctors prescribed fresh air camps in the mountains. There were cabins with no windows, and the pine was the only relief. Doctors world wide would prescribe spending time in the forest to heal respiratory infections, asthma and bronchitis before the discovery of modern medicine. Fleas would be controlled with pine tar soap. Clothes would be moth free with pine tar paper lining the drawers.

The holiday season can cause our emotions to roller coaster. Pine oil can ease the anxiety and stress over the holidays. Its called aromatherapy and the benefits are plentiful. It refreshes, relaxes and rejuvenates the mind body and spirit. The essential oil comes from the Pinus sylvestris tree.

Have a pine needle sachet party. Get fresh pine needle branches from Christmas trees. The fraiser fir works quite well. Buy precut netting and ribbon at a crafts store. Pluck the needles from the stems until you have a nice amount. Enjoy the aroma on your fingers. Notice how your fingers get black! That is the pine tar. Place the needles in the center of the netting, gather the ends, tie a ribbon around it and your sachets are ready to enjoy. Place a few in your drawers to make your cloths smell nice, and keep pests away. Keep some sachets in your car for tension free errand runs. Place some around the house. The needles keep their scent for yeas. Tourist areas in the country sell pine needle pillows. Let me know how your family and friends enjoyed this event!

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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Flamingo Gardens

Going to Flamingo Gardens is like revisiting old Florida. There were many citrus groves and farms in Broward county sixty years ago. Most of the farmland has given way to strip centers, shopping malls and housing developments and our food is brought in from other areas. Flamingo Gardens provides a link to the past.
Flamingo Gardens was created in 1927 as a citrus grove of 320 acres. Back then there was very little development in Davie. The main owners Floyd L. and Jane Wray lived in Hollywood and did not move onto the property until 1933, when they built a house there. The charming home is now a museum and is opened to the public. Step back in time as you enter the house and revisit the 1930’s with furniture, knick knacks and a fully stocked kitchen with gadgets from yesteryear.
A favorite place to visit for locals and visitors alike, Flamingo Gardens has a multitude of attractions. The gardens were created about eighty years ago and now contain some of the state’s largest specimen trees. Known as champion trees, there are signs marking which ones have attained this prestigious status. Lush gardens are easy to walk, with paved paths and sitting areas. The gardens are grouped in the front of the property just after the gift shop.
As decades come and go, changes to the garden have occurred. There used to be a barn with antique cars on display years ago. This has given way to a large meeting room where educational lectures, special functions and events are held. A nice sized well stocked garden center with garden whimsy has come and gone. The old quaint animal area remains intact and has been updated, with a wonderful wild bird outpost as well.

There are tram tours daily that take visitors around the garden. Tour guides explain the garden history and provide names of the botanical plants. Flamingo Gardens is a special place in Broward County. Every time you go you learn something different about plants, birds and more.
The aviary is like a nursing home for injured and sick birds. This bird sanctuary provides a wonderful opportunity to visit Florida birds close up. There is a large shade cloth area where several Florida ecosystems have been successfully recreated. Each area blends into the next, providing the birds a place to feel at home. The area has many, many birds and it is a photographer’s paradise.

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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Annie Haven and her Teas

A wonderful perk of being on the net and having a blog, and being connected with social media is the great people you meet. I have some great contacts now and enjoy their work and contributions in the garden world.

Another perk is learning what is happening in the gardens of different regions of the USA and around the world. My biggest fans outside the USA on my Facebook page are Indonesia, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and France.
Another great perk are the product samples you get in the mail. You never know what goodies await in the mailbox when you get home from work.

I met Annie Haven on Facebook. We chatted up her and there and she sent me some of her special garden teas. These teas are not the kind you sip on fine china and eat a cucumber sandwich. These teas you brew and feed to your garden plants.
The first one I tried was for my roses. It is considered a soil conditioner and it is called an Alfalfa Tea. Following the instructions on the bag, I placed the bag in a 5 gallon bucket of water, covered the pail and let it seep for a few days. When I opened the bucket, what an aroma! It brought me back to my youth. Memories of visits to the zoo, horse riding, and petting zoos replayed in my head. Flies came out of nowhere and hovered around me. It was quite a surprise indeed.

I poured a nice amount around each rose bush. The aroma was very strong all over the garden. Luckily by the next morning, it was all gone. That was two weeks ago and now it is time to water the roses with ¼ a cup of Epsom salts. Years ago I was told about the benefits of applying Epson salts, but neglected to do it. Haven Brand has given me the motivation to apply the Epsom salts. I will be reporting the progress of my roses in future posts. Visit for more information.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Butterfly Gardening

The butterflies this autumn are outstanding in the garden. They are fluttering about from early morning till early evening. Every spot of the garden has butterflies. Sometimes they fly in groups of two, chasing each other about the flowers. Other times they are busy laying eggs on the milkweed. Sometimes I can catch a photo when they bask in the sun, gathering energy. Trying to photograph the butterflies is a challenge since they often flutter about so quickly all you get is a blurry image. The other day I was able to capture many photos so I wanted to share these with you.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What to do when the garden grows beyond your reach?

Every so often I have to call in landscapers with huge equipment to top my fruit trees. What good is having a huge fruit tree without having access to the fruit? By keeping it low the fruit is accessible. My neighbor is happy also because his satellite dish TV may lose reception if the trees get too large. I rather have the professionals prune around the power lines as well.
The trees in the groves get trimmed regularly after the fruit is harvested, so I like to follow suit. However this year right after the mango finished the star fruit started to produce a nice crop. Cost wise I wanted to do both at once, so I lost some fruit. There is still plenty more for my personal use and for my tropical fruit tasting classes at work.
It’s fun to go out in the morning and pick and eat fresh fruit from the garden. My mangos are so sweet and the star fruit are a sweet tart combo. Very healthy too!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

July 4th Garden Party

Every holiday has its important foods from the garden. What would Independence Day be without the traditional BBQ with fresh corn on the cob, watermelon and apple pie? In the Northern USA it is time to harvest early crops of radishes, beans and those first tomatoes. Blueberries are ripening, plumb juicy cherries, early plums and fresh peaches are right around the corner. This is my favorite time of the year when the fresh fruits are at their peak.

In the blistery heat of South Florida, our main growing season ended months ago. Now we can still grow some peppers, everglades cherry tomato, collard greens and okra. After weeks and weeks of dry hot weather, our rainy season finally began this week. South Florida is considered sub tropical. We have six months of dry weather in the late fall through early spring and then the wet season begins. During the wet season is the hurricane season.

Although it is too hot to enjoy the food outdoors this time of year in Florida, I hope you all have a great feast right in your garden, backyard, park or anywhere else you choose. Here we will be in the comfortable air conditioning. Have a great July 4th weekend and enjoy the wonderful fresh fruits and vegetables of the season.
Best wishes from Fort Lauderdale Beach.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Plant volunteers in the garden

“Birds do it, bees do it Even educated fleas do it Lets do it”, let's fall in Robert’s Tropical Paradise Garden. Cole Porter was referring to something else entirely. I am referring to the multitude of seedlings growing in my garden that I did not plant. I have groundcovers, flowers, wildflowers, weeds, shrubs and even trees popping up all over the place. The reason is due to the fertile soil I have built up, the large amount of mulched areas and wild life that is attracted to my garden.
Birds feast on the stalks of berries from the Schefflera trees in other neighbor’s gardens. Then they come to my garden, take a leisurely cleansing in one of the bird baths, have some lunch at the bird feeders and drop some seeds as they fly off from my bird day spa. The Scheffleras pop up at various locations. Some I transplant and grow as bonsai from time to time. The Schefflera arboricola lend themselves much better than the large ones, but the large ones are what the birds like to drop in my garden.

Squirrels feast from the feeders as well, climb up and down the trees and bury oak seedlings. One by the fence grew and grew. I wanted to pot it up and replant in at one of the nursing homes I do Horticulture Therapy at but never got around to it. Hence chain saw surgery was in order.
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Sometimes the plant volunteer is quite welcome. I do not mind the milkweeds popping up since they attract the monarch butterflies. An occasional Crossandra gives a burst of orange color. Small Everglades tomatoes tend to start growing among shrubs and under the ground cover of small trees. If I catch them soon enough, I can transplant them to a more beneficial location and reap the harvest for a few months.
White birds of paradise also are germinating around the garden as well. They get huge, so will have to repot those as well.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

First Visit to Naples Botanical Garden

A birthday gift was a trip across alligator alley through the Everglades to reach a new gem of a botanical garden. This garden took many, many years of planning before they even broke ground. Each garden within the garden has a theme. The wetlands garden and bird watching area replicates the Everglades and is designed to attract birds and wildlife. The children’s garden is designed for the children to really enjoy playing while learning. The Roberto Berle Marx garden is a loving dedication by Raymond Jungles, who was his mentor. The Caribbean garden takes you away to the steel drums and sweet fruits of the tropical islands. The enabling garden had some raised beds with overgrown plants and needed some work. The intention was excellent; the execution needs some fine tuning.
It was amazing to view the gardens in their infancy. The newly planted gardens are already a delight to view. I look forward to going back to enjoy it while it matures.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Newspaper and mulch trick reappears in the garden

My baby sitter was way ahead of her time. She was an organic gardener when the term was not even invented yet. Her entire backyard was a vegetable garden loaded with healthy vegetables, some of which I had never eaten or heard of as a little boy.
One of her tricks she taught us was to save time and work by not digging up the lawn to expand the garden.

She liked laying down five to six layers of newspaper and planting threw it later on after the grass had died. She was already elderly and it was an easy method for her.
There are a multitude of other benefits to the newspaper and mulch method of planting. The grass breaks down and adds organic matter to the soil. The weeds stay out. The ground stays moist longer so watering time is cut down.
With the invasion on chinch bugs and grubs into my lawn, combined with our lack of rain, I decided to reduce my lawn even further this spring.

My bromeliads were in need of dividing, so they provided the low ground cover needed to fill in the bare spots in the landscape. By low, I mean two feet and under, some of my bromeliads are rather large. Sometimes I like to group the same bromeliads together for uniformity, while other times I like to vary them in a landscape bed.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Flowers In the Florida Garden

I once had a tour of seniors visit my garden from a senior residence. They all loved the garden but some of them commented they thought there would be more flowers. Since then I have added garden hooks for flowering hanging baskets throughout the backyard jungle. I added more flowering perennials, flowering shrubs to the front garden, and more roses.

Sometimes it’s nice to have constructive criticism, both inside and outside the garden. It helps us grow.

Lately there was a battle of chinch bugs in the front yard, and they won. This provided the opportunity for more area to plant. Over the weekend after touring a friend’s garden, I came home with a bag full of cuttings. I will nurture the in small pots in the shade until they root. Now that the humidity is up and the days are warmer, cuttings root easier.

I will be posting soon about some garden teas Annie sent me in the mail, quite an interesting story to tell…

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spring in South Florida

Growing up as a little boy in New Jersey, our spring arrived with the brilliant yellow forsythia bushes. Before the leaves started to bud, these showy bushes would burst with yellow flowers up and down the slim branches.

My pining for the northern springs is fulfilled in South Florida with the blooming Yellow Trumpet trees. Tabebula argentea or Tavebuia caraiba . This ubiquitous tree can be seen throughout South Florida as a specimen in front of private homes and hugging the sides of commercial buildings. Notice them while sitting in traffic planted in street medians plantings.

I especially like the rough texture of the bark and the crooked way the branches grow as the tree matures. We found out during the last set of hurricanes how soft the wood of the tree really is. The trees came tumbling down like dominoes.
The previous owner of my house got five of the trees for free from the city for planting in the swales of the house. They grew into the power lines and have been butchered by the FPL crews. The garbage trucks come barreling through the neighborhood, crashing into the branches, causing them to cascade into the street.
Welcome sweet springtime!